The story is told by a third-person narrator and employs Southern Gothic techniques to create a bizarre character and eerie plot. Faulkner also does not tell the story in a chronological order but instead moves back and forth in time. This serves the author’s desire to shock readers with the sudden reveal at the end. Without the non-linear device, the end of the story would probably not be as stunning as it is.
By opening with Miss Emily’s funeral and working backward, Faulkner paints a portrait of Miss Emily early on and provides important details about her relationships. For instance, we learn that the “whole town went to her funeral” but not because the townspeople grieved her passing. Instead, the men went out of respect for her or, more accurately, out of respect for her forefathers in the southern community. Faulkner even says that Miss Emily had been “a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town.”
The women, meanwhile, attended Miss Emily’s funeral out of curiosity. By opening with her funeral and then telling her story, we immediately see Miss Emily as someone apart from the rest of the townspeople and isolated by choice. By moving back and forth in time, Faulkner conveys important elements about Miss Emily’s personality and character. We learn that she was proud, haughty, financially strapped (Faulkner says she is “a pauper” after her father’s death), and desirous of male companionship. By playing with time in the story, the author also plays with the reader's orientation, making us ready to be shocked by the end.
The author tells us that Miss Emily refused to have her father buried for three days. In this way, he foreshadows the ending. He sets the reader up for the reveal, although he does not dwell on the specific point about her father’s burial. In fact, it is mentioned almost in passing—in just three short sentences—and Faulkner quickly moves on. He thereby paves the way for the big twist at the end of the story. Without using this device, the ending would not be as surprising.
The author drops hints of what is to come throughout the story, but we have no solid sense of the chronological order of scenes. Nevertheless, we can deduce some loose sense of time even though the author jumps around. For instance, the local authorities approach Miss Emily about her taxes. Some thirty years before this, their fathers approached her about the smell. The smell “was two years after her father's death and a short time after her sweetheart ... deserted her.”